Despite being the 13th action of its kind, this week's Moral Monday protest stood out amongst the rest. With the largest attendance yet, protestors—celebrated by the NAACP as 'trumpets of conscience' and 'agents of change'—flocked to the statehouse where they rallied against GOP-orchestrated education cuts within North Carolina.
Monday's action follows weeks of protests opposing right wing attacks on workers' rights, reproductive health, voting protection, and a slew of vital public services lead by the Republican-dominated N.C. House and Senate.
The number of participants was so high that portions of a major street were shut down, WRAL reports.
In contrast to previous protests—which brought the total arrests to over 900—almost no one was taken into custody on Monday. As The Huffington Post reports, legislators departed the Capitol for summer recess just three days earlier, leaving the building nearly empty and providing no reason to remove demonstrators.
While lawmakers were absent, protesters were out in full force. In addition to the unprecedented amount of demonstrators, the North Carolina Association of Educators also brought 'busloads' of teachers to the protest, WRAL reports. Participants donned red to show their fierce opposition to a budget that ends teacher tenure, eliminates incentives for teachers with higher education degrees, provides school vouchers, and skips over raises for state staff who are among the lowest-paid in the nation.
"Educators are sick and tired of being demoralized... we're sick and tired of being unappreciated. We're sick and tired of being disrespected," explained NCAE President Rodney Ellis at a press conference preceding the action, "Public educators and public schools are not failing our students, politicians are."
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"[Teachers] are going to have to pay out of their pocket. They are going to have to work many hours for little pay," commented teacher Julie Grice on the future of education within the state.
As Moral Monday protests in Raleigh come to a temporary close, organizer Rev. William Barber reflected back on the progress of the movement in an interview with NPR on Monday. Barber explained, "what we have found since we have done Moral Mondays [is that] less than one out of five North Carolinians now agree with the legislature. Moral Monday is more popular than they are." Since the protests began in April, Governor Pat McCrory's poll numbers have dropped over 20-30 percent.
Barber maintained that organizers "had hoped that by doing civil nonviolent disobedience that [the GOP] would come to their senses, but we also knew that, in that tradition, if they did not come to their senses, our work was to wake up the consciousness and the senses of the people of North Carolina. And it has, we've done that across this state, across the nation, and now we're organizing like never before." He added, "This is our Selma."
As for the legislator's summer recess, Barber explained "We are not ending Moral Monday. We are suspending it here and taking it on the road."
A tour of all 13 congressional districts is set to begin next week in Asheville.
Lucia Brown is a summer editorial intern at Common Dreams.